the fatwaif diaries

the workings of a wandering mind

Friday, January 06, 2006


under normal circumstances i 'd be annoyed by the ten and half hour flight to paris. Cramped between a snoring lady and an obese man and oppressed by the seat in front, I couldn't wait to get out, stretch my legs, eat real food and drink real coffee.
and then there was the dashingly arrogant a.m., sitting in business class on the same flight as me. ironic and funny but i didn't care in that moment.
I was somewhere between sleep and sleeplessness when the plane found parking. May as well wait for other passengers to get ahead before jostling into the aisle, I thought testily. Bloodshot eyes, static hair and achy limbs notwithstanding, i managed to gather my hand luggage in record time.
Too busy lugging my three bags and one body out the airplane, I barely noticed that the temperature outside was below freezing. So how long can a journey from the plane to the terminal be? Five minutes, ten minutes max.
The bus stopped suddenly and without any explanation the driver vanished. We were locked in and while the adults cursed Charles de Gaulle quietly, the babies on board protested loudly on everyone's behalf.
With nothing else to do, I looked out the window and saw for the first time ever snowflakes! i always imagined snow to be like rain, heading straight for the ground. but here they were, little crystal-like flakes lazily drifting about, so light, so white, so prettily falling in slow motion.
one moment i was waiting for something - the bus to go to the terminal, and the next moment, i wasn't waiting any more. life made sense. i felt reconnected, like i'd seen first-hand the deep magic that doesn't show itself so often as you get older. all my sixteen days of christmas were culminating here.
I leave m, reluctantly but somewhat fatefully, to experience december in bangalore solo.
My first whiff of bangalore's 20-something degree sweet muddy smelling air, and i feel at home. 'You smell different - foreign' my sister says. But in a few days, the 'foreign' smell wears off and it seems as if i'd never left.
Bangalore is chilly, the house draughty and cold. I bundle up at home like i used to while studying for school exams in the old days. i eat chappatis after four months, make jokes with mani, sign language to dd, and meet aunties and uncles who've known me forever.
ma and i soon leave for madras. we head straight for the old home - the site of my early tempestuous days with m. all dusty and musty now, but with the same big green mango trees outside complete with noisy koels. the book rack we bought together, our wedding gift microwave waiting for someone to do something with it. the dreamcatcher. our possessions heavy with memory, lying in wait for us.
can't tell you how good it feels to be back on the roads i know so well, i felt this impulse to tell the driver to move over and give me the wheel! i miss my old life so much,! the hindu, the driving around strange places, meeting ordinary people under the midday sun, eating upma in the canteen, the camaraderie...and then my other life- the one in which i met m, the life of restaurants, nightclubs, besant nagar, kotturpuram, ECR. guess what, i even feel nostalgic about the sweat. i meet r, s and m for breakfast and feel happy.
from there on to pondicherry along the good old ecr, as spectacular as ever, past mahabs, the salt pans - all drowned in water now. in pondy, the old house has a new coat of paint. the paint company even took a picture of the house with appappa in it for their brochure. they gave him a framed copy that's now on the shelf next to the clock. i drink tea in the same old tea mugs, and flip through the same old readers digests from the seventies.
selva, ammama's man friday, the boy who helped me catch a squirrel as as a nine-year old prayed for my wedding before it happened and 'vendified' that i would got to a temple near gingee with my husband. he beams ear to ear and that's reminder enough.
the other boy selvam, remember him, the chubby baby of the woman who used to clean house, he's quitting school because he failed in maths, ammama tells us. he's got into bad company. only wants to play marbles. my mother calls him and gives him a talk. he promises to give the exam another shot.
we go out for dinner - gujarati thali at this new place honeydew. the owner, a smart and amiable gujarati, has recently opened a sweet shop. he regales us with his observations on how south indians eat too many sweets, while his wife and mother make the chappatis downstairs. my mother laughs guiltily. ammama laughs so much that she cries. my grandfather enjoys the soft chappatis, no trouble for his dentures.

back in bangalore and p arrives.we're like the twosome of old days. except that she's now a successful journalist while i'm still forging ahead as a student. she's leaner than she was, i'm no longer the skinny one.
we're back to discussing boys, love, relationships, sex. we know more now than we did before but our knowledge still seems woefully inadequate. We don't discuss distant futures that much now. It seems like the future that matters is already here. no more wondering about whether we'd be married with kids and successful jobs by 28... 28 is around the corner and we feel like we did nine years ago. we're just glad to be the same.

mcp's wedding: we get out of the car and someone calls my name. distinctive indian-american weird accent. it's a.m. and i have the immense satisfaction of looking him in the eye while maintaining a steady pulse. he asks what my husband does. i ask about his wife. i know i look good and i certainly feel good.
we meet c, v, everybody else. it's the same boys school humour. we're all sixteen again. we dance to the beat of the dholak. it's cold, i miss m.

the next day the wedding's at the church. we go, admire the groom, take pictures. go for coffee with the boys club. a cop stops me for skipping a light. two of my favorite boys come to the rescue, deal with the cop, pay the fine for me. it's a nice feeling although i feel i should tell them i can deal with it myself. i let it be and everybody's happy.
the next few days are a whirl. p soon has to leave. i wish her heart wasn't so heavy. I know she can take care of herself though. i want to wrap her in my arms and make everything ok. i'm thankful for such a good friend. i think about the next time i'm going to see her.

in the days that follow i meet dips and her rounded stomach. priya with her flawless complexion, and their respective husbands - happy couples all. it's good to know that old friends can also be new friends. i feel like taking care of dips. she'll be a mother the next time i see her.

it's new years eve, i'm missing m quite a bit. i wonder about him in the cold cold place. but then k's there so it's ok. i miss home in london. our tiny family. i like the fact that we're both missing each other.
82-year old world renowned violinist gatecrashes our tame house gathering. we spend the last few minutes of the year listening to him sing jazz. at midnight all's quiet and we look at the night sky listening for the sound of the new year.

the first few days of the year fly by and soon it's time for another homecoming - this time in london. i'm on my way and i can't wait. i feel like everything is in the right place. that m and i are so good.
the driver gets back into the bus and starts the engine. everybody on board the bus heaves a sigh of relief and i snap out of my reverie. finally, we're moving! i will meet a.m. at the terminal and we will talk as friends.

I feel relieved that my life has turned out the way it has....i am truly blessed.